Nice post George. Thanks.
I guess the one point that I would like to continue discussing is the point you made about "after many years of training,". While I also felt that way a number of years ago, I am beginning to shorten that "many years" to "many months" because I feel that if one is teaching Aikido from a principles basis rather than a techniques basis, you need to get into that resistance mode a lot sooner. This is in order for the student to really understand what the principle being taught is about.
Again, I want to stress that I do not consider "locking down" to be the only form of resistance but that flowing with the technique is also a form of resistance. I do feel that the flowing form of resistance in Kaeshi Waza should be left for a number of years in many cases but this too has its purpose in teaching certain principles like that of orthogonality in movement. The Tai No Tenkan exercise is one, for instance, in which resistance through flow is paramount and that is one of the earliest exercises taught in Aikido.
Correct understanding of Kokyu Dosa requires Uke to resist by trying to lock down at progressively faster rates. Correct understanding of the use of Kokyu also requires Uke to resist by trying to lock down, especially in doing Kokyu Ho from Morote Tori. Of course, like the old saying of Masakatsu, Agatsu, Katsu Haya Hi, learning the form for the exercise requires slow and easy but once the form is learned, without strong resistance, the exercises simply seem to become exercises in wasted motion. Once the form is learned, without significant resistance, Uke and Nage are just going through the motions.
Yeah, I might be overstating my point but I don't think too much. I really do get my students to start giving higher levels of resistance to each other much earlier than a lot of other teachers, I guess. I do so because I want my students to understand why the principles are important and how they are used. It also helps by providing the students with good modelling on how to provide each other with the right type of resistance for later on when I am not there to give them guidance. That resistance becomes important for good research.
So, yes. I do start the students giving each other a significant level of resistance from early on.
I'm sure we are actually in agreement...
I am absolutely against "collusion" on the part of the uke. Uke's job is to attempt to maintain good structural integrity and balance and to deliver clean energy, with intention, to nage's center.
Doing this effectively actually requires relaxation rather than tension. When most folks say active resistance, they actually manifest that in their practice as physical tension. This just isn't good martial arts, although it will make it hard, if not impossible for newer folks to relax enough in their waza to develop an understanding of aiki. For senior folks, that tension actually makes it easier to move the uke rather than harder.
When I grab a nage, I am quite relaxed. But I have good structure. If he collides with that structure in attempting his technique, I do not move. I don't consider this "resistance" since I am actively connecting to nage's center and not cutting of my connection in any way. Nage is simply colliding with my structure and needs to run the energy of the technique in a way that doesn't do so.
I expect uke to be able to protect himself or herself at all times. Uke should be able to parry any atemi and should be looking to execute a kaeshiwaza at any instant. Tense ukemi doesn't allow that. Ukes who attack with the intention of stopping nage's technique rather than delivering a good attack, invariably are open and cannot protect themselves. The only thing that should prevent uke from being able to parry, counter strike, or reverse, is kuzushi and if nage has kuzushi, uke should be taking the fall, not putting himself in danger by fighting at that point.
In order for students to ever really get past the jiu jutsu side of the art and get to some understanding of aiki, practice must necessarily be cooperative. I have a couple large and very strong 1st kyu boys training with me. They are quite capable of shutting down the smaller students, even ones at the lower dan rank levels. It takes some real skill to be able to handle these fellows without using a lot of strength. There is simply no function in having them simply shut down their partners over and over. I see this happen a lot, especially to women students who don't have that kind of strength.
Practice is not a competition. It is a cooperative form of training in which each person has a role and that role is designed to help the partner develop an understanding of specific principles and imprint them properly in the body. If a competitive aspect exists in the practice too early, I do not believe that the students will learn how to relax their minds and their bodies properly. What most folks mean by "active resistance" is really a competitive mindset in which I see my role as "beating" my partner, usually by stopping his technique. In my opinion that is training with improper intention.
I take a lot of my inspiration on this from watching the Systema folks. I look at what they accomplish using their training methodology and the sophistication level of their top guys, most of whom trained with Vlad for only about 7 or 8 years and then I compare it to most Aikido and we are simply not in the ballpark.
I take a look at what my teachers do on the mat and how few students have any idea how to do what they are doing and I fault the training. We trained hard but stupid. I really believe that there is a better way. I look at what Endo Sensei is doing and I think that he is much more likely to develop students who understand aiki on some level and those students will be physically healthier and not so trashed as my peers are.
When uke strikes it should be with the intent to deliver that strike with speed and power, if possible actually making contact with the partner. When uke grabs, it is his or her job to grab the nage's center, to attempt to grab the whole body. The point in both cases is to connect, to have "atari" or connection to nage's center. Whereas, a good attack might result in nage not being able to throw, or even move, it isn't the intention of the uke to stop him but merely to do his part of the interaction with good structure and balance and not give that up unless nage "takes" it away. I don't consider that resistance because there is no intention to resist but rather the intention is to deliver the best attack possible to nage's center while protecting ones own suki or openings.
I also do not consider kaeshiwaza to come under the heading of "resistance" since it doesn't involve stopping or blocking the flow of energy within the technique. It actually requires good matching ukemi or it will not succeed.
I think this is probably mostly a terminology issue. I'm trying for terminology that makes it clear to both partners what their roles are and defines the ultimate point of the training to be about connection and ridding the mind and the body of tension.